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OtherI just completed the TRIPLE CROWN of hiking! AMA!

Oct 22nd 2017 by sohikes • 44 Questions • 71 Points

You may know Zach from his comic, SMBC. You may have heard of Kelly from media about this super-creepy parasite she co-discovered.

Together, we wrote a book called "Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything." It's a big nerd-out about a bunch of future tech, along with weird stories and fun facts. An NPR review said it "feels like a slightly drunken lecture by a couple of enthusiastic professors."

Ask us about the book, parasites, cartooning, or this one research project where they found that students will obey robots that come bearing cookies.

Zach will be answering as /u/MrWeiner. Kelly will be answering as /u/sciencegal.

Proof: https://www.reddit.com/user/MrWeiner/

Q:

What inspired you to do this?

A:

What are your favourite examples of people using Excel for unusual things?


Q:

I asked Adam Savage this, I'll ask you too.

When will some one remake Junkyard Wars? It seems like it would be perfect for some one with your skill set.

A:

Is there any optimism in the research community about finding "islands of stability" higher up in the periodic chart? Or is that considered a dead-end?


Q:

Has podcast sponsorship given you guys a good ROI? How has it compared to returns on other forms of advertising/marketing?

A:

Will there ever be a revival of SMBC Theater?

Also, you're awesome!


Q:

I've always liked the outdoors and hiking. I grew up in Maine. Also, school wasn't working out

A:

One of my favorites support requests contained a business justification of "this issue is delaying the space shuttle launch". -Ben[Microsoft]


Q:

That's funny you say that. We've been talking about revamping that show.

A:

Yeah, there is. There's a lot of work currently going on to try and find the island around neutron number 184, so that's work with flerovium (although the problem is we can't get the neutron count up). The other possible islands beyond that, say the 120 region, are theoretical at the moment, so we need to get the next few elements before we know.


Q:

(Jason) - We love podcasts. Its a captive audience. We try to buy them at an affordable rate (1200-2500). We are selective on the audience. We do well in a more liberal space (its seems like the audience is more comfortable with Taboo topics). Typically, we can put $1 in and get $1.20 back. Its also a guaranteed Brand Build.

A:

I will always appreciate how many people ask that question, but sadly no. None of us would have the time any more, and unfortunately SMBCT just never turned a profit.


Q:

Congratulations! What trail food did you consume the most?

A:

For real. This needs to be seen.


Q:

Where did you learn the majority of your workshop and building skills? I.E. Welding, carpentry, electronics, etc..

A:

What properties would be predicted for elements around that neutron number?


Q:

When your viral videos are released do you just sit back and watch the dollars roll in?

A:

Follow up: what is your smbc theater buddy James Ashby up to nowadays?


Q:

Any and every kind of bar. Clif bars, snickers, protein bars, etc

A:

Ok, ok. I can get you a pic of the fence tomorrow (I don't typically carry around pics of my fence on my phone). I might still have the spreadsheet I used. -Jeff[Microsoft]


Q:

A lot of the skills I have I learned on the job. Fake it till you make it.

A:

It's not so much the properties of the element, but properties of the isotope of that element. You'd get much longer lived isotopes, so you could have an element that lasts years rather than seconds.

In terms of the properties of flerovium - that's something that nobody's really sure about at the moment. It looks pretty unreactive, but at this point in the periodic table you start getting huge relativistic effects. The most interesting upshot of that theorised so far is with element 118 - which might not have electron shells!


Q:

(bobby) Yes, I am actually answering from our shitty private jet.

A:

Traveling a bit and writing some lovely fiction that hasn't been released yet. We're working on putting out a comic book based on a beautiful script he wrote.


Q:

What piece(s) of gear was the most helpful in all three hikes? Did you carry a tent or use a tarp (or hammock?)?

A:

What's the biggest mistake (or regret) thats happened within development?


Q:

Who decided on the cars used in non-car specific myths/scenarios? It seemed sometimes that sought after classics got destroyed sometimes, where regular/other cars could have been used

A:

Left field question for you.

What is the standard banter at parties/events in your field?

When chatting with Yuri Oganessian (or similar) in a social setting, what percentage of the conversation is atoms & elements and what percentage is shooting the shit talking about sports or mayonnaise vs. mustard?


Q:

our shitty private jet

The Spruce Deuce

A:

Your comics steadily evolved from one panel single cell organisms into huge, monstrous megafauna. Now I feel like there's a great deal of genetic diversity in your comic ecosystem, though the megafauna of yesteryear is much less common. What personal thoughts do you have about your comic length? When did you decide to move from single panels to multipanel comics and how has your planning/layout process changed since then?


Q:

My CDT gear list

https://lighterpack.com/r/dsopoz

I used different gear for all the hikes. I always used a tent, never hammocked before.

A:

Taking out u/Clippy_Office_Asst -Michael[Microsoft]


Q:

It still breaks my heart that we destroyed so many classic cars. Ugh.

A:

Probably 60% old friends seeing each other, 40% discussing who's doing what/interesting ideas/how work is going. It depends how long ago it was that they caught up with each other.

As the community is relatively small, there's a lot of business chat and deal making. In the cold war, the US/Russian teams were competing and not working together; today it's just not possible to do the research any other way.

That said, if it's a conference or something everyone's looking to unwind a little. Nuclear physicists discussing going to an escape room is great. Also scientists LOVE to talk about food.


Q:

(Carson) If we ever actually get a jet. Consider it named. That or Shitty McShitface.

A:

I did single panels for a long time just because that was a genre I enjoyed. After a while it felt very constraining, and the comics just started growing and growing as I experimented more.

Lately they've gotten a bit shorter (on average at least) in part due to time constraints. I'm also more interested in prose writing, so sometimes when I have an idea for a longer story I just write it down, with the intention to do the whole story when things have slowed down a bit over here.


Q:

What was your favorite aspect of each trail?

And, considering the CDT is not as well-traveled as the AT/PCT, did you experience any navigational challenges?

A:

Why can't the auto-scientific notation default be disabled?


Q:

Did you ever recover from the emotional damage caused by the infamous bike jump?

A:

so what is it, mayonnaise or mustard?


Q:

Have you thought about marketing to pregnant women? I bought one while I was pregnant and it really helped with pregnancy "issues." I didn't end up with any hemorrhoids even after pushing my kid out for 3 hours! I'm recommending it to all my preggo friends.

My husband loves it too!

Edit: if we learned anything from this thread, it's that you should call your mom and tell her you love her.

A:

I'm a regular sized person but a huge fan of your comic. It's given me many laughs and had gotten me thinking about all manner of human things.

My questions are these:

Excluding your own work, what comic series or graphic novels do you enjoy most?

What is your favorite comfort snack? For me it's is Mac and Cheese Eggrolls© and almonds.


Q:

AT: It was my first trail so I have the most memories from it. Finishing atop Katahdin is pretty dramatic

PCT: Amazing wide open views. You'll take a picture, walk 30ft and then take another picture from another angle.

CDT: Pretty much the same as the PCT but you have to work a little harder for the views. A lot of people like how empty the trail is but hiking 2600 miles alone is pretty boring

The CDT wasn't that hard to navigate. I defiantly got lost more times on that trail than I did on the other two combined. I had a GPS app on my phone along with paper maps and a compass that I never had to use

A:

I know that it can be frustrating entering values and having this happen. We are investigating what we can do to make this better.  You can help by Voting for this issue. For now, you can select a range and format as text prior to entering the bar codes / id numbers. -Eric [Microsoft]


Q:

Haha! Yes, and amazingly I didn't get injured too bad. I need to revisit that jump using a BMX bike.

A:

My general recollection is that Russian food had a lot of mayo, so I'm going to go with that one.


Q:

(Carson) While it's not something we've explored fully, we're definitely looking to try out the pregnant women market more. We actually did a blog post featuring my wife who was utterly saved by the Squatty Potty during pregnancy. She also loves talking about poop so it worked out...

A:

Comics: I've really loved Guy DeLisle's traveling series.

Comfort Snack: I do a handmade pizza that's greasy and covered with pickled or brined vegetables, all of which my wife hates. The latter adds to the savor. Although, if I could eat anything all day, it'd be these.


Q:

I had never heard of the CDT but looking at the map i see it goes through new mexico. Isn't that like mostly desert? How did you carry enough water?

A:

Hello from the Mod Team at /r/excel!

Will you ever integrate other languages, such as python, into Excel, to complement VBA?

Also, will SQL be integrated better into Excel? The current query viewer is poor, compared to other environments.


Q:

Wait, you're actually considering jumping the wagon again? Do you think using a BMX bike instead of that "cruiser" would help?

If you do decide to jump it again, we'll need Kari and Scottie there for commentary. Just like old times!

A:

Were there any instances where they weren't able to successfully recreate the new element after making the claims?


Q:

Used mine this morning. Had it for a few months now, and I do think it's helping "get it out". Unfortunately, my lower bathroom times has led to less reading and Reddit time. Everything's gotta have a down side, doesn't it?

A:

Oh my goodness that looks delicious!

I work in a pizza shop. My favorite pie to make is pepperoni with pickled onions, pickles jalapeños, and pickled peppers. If you're ever in New Orleans, come by and we'll hook you up with all the pickles you want! We'll make /u/sciencegal gasp at the horrors of our many pickles!


Q:

Most water I carried was 4 liters. Wasn't bad. You defiantly have to pay attention to water sources though. You'll be drinking out of the same tubs that the cows do

A:

Hi Mod Team, thanks for all your hard work!

Lots of options here so folks are aware.. there're several ways to use Python with Excel today already using great open source (including Pandas!) and partner solutions, and through the Microsoft Graph. We also announced ability for Excel to call out to Azure Machine Learning models that could host R or Python within them.

We're working hard to extend the programmability surface area to make sure developers can build very rich solutions that run across platforms, and have been releasing these every month.

For scripting in other languages, yes, this is something we're exploring. Would love the feedback on our User Voice site: http://excel.uservoice.com.

Thanks! - Ash (Microsoft)


Q:

Totally. The "Cruiser" was way too heavy. BMX should be a piece of cake. I'll post it on YouTube.

A:

Loads. There are some claims that have never been substantiated, for example the Israeli scientist Amnon Marinov claimed to discover element 112 in 1971 while working at CERN. His claim has never been endorsed. Element 102, Nobelium, was named by a Swedish team who claimed to have discovered the element (they hadn't).

Perhaps the most infamous example is Victor Ninov, who is alleged to have fabricated evidence to claim he had discovered element 118 in the late 90s at Berkeley.


Q:

(jason) think of all the extra yoga time you now have

A:

I may take you up on that one day...


Q:

What do you do for a living to afford the time for these hikes?

A:

Thanks for doing the AMA. I have a question about a VERY simple yet useful feature that magically disappeared for recent versions.

I have 2 spreadsheets open side by side. I highlight several cells and get the 'sum' of the numbers, which shows in the bottom Status bar. I click onto the second spreadsheet to type that number. The sum in the Status bar below disappears from the first spreadsheet.

This used to never happen and whatever I had highlighted would remain in the taskbar at the bottom while I clicked the other spreadsheet. This would help me transfer new data from one spreadsheet to another, but now I need to manually add a =sum() in the first spreadsheet so that it shows it physically.

WHY!?!


Q:

"Lets egg Tori on until he hurts himself" lol

A:

What would you say was the greatest site to visit, in your personal opinion?


Q:

Does this device do anything to help treat/prevent hemorrhoids?

A:

Damn it's been five years since I left home to study abroad in France (came back after a year and a half) and I had totally forgotten about Canellés. Fuck you


Q:

I saved a lot when I was in the Marines. The hikes don't cost as much as you think. It's around 1000/month. I just worked shitty odd jobs to save up

A:

Are you on Windows? Open your first file. Then open a separate Excel process by going to Start > Run and type excel /x Then open the second file. Let me know if it works! -Dave [Microsoft]


Q:

Why would they do that?

A:

Oh, that's really hard! I loved them all for different reasons. RIKEN was amazing because the whole city is obsessed with discovering an element - there's bronze plaques of the periodic table leading to the lab. GSI was great too, because it's got a LINAC - the accelerator they use is about 100m long and it's awesome to walk around it.

I'd probably say Oak Ridge, though. It's set in the rolling Tennessee valleys, so it's beautiful, and the different labs are all incredible. I got to go to both the High Flux Isotope Reactor and its hot cells (radioactive cells where they isolate the elements from the reactor), and also visit the X-10 reactor: the world's first nuclear reactor. Standing in the place where history was made was a huge thrill.


Q:

(bobby) Those bunch of grapes are caused by straining to go. Squatty Potty reduces the straining. It essential un-kinks the garden hose "colon" so the poop can come out with less pushing.

A:

I live down the street from a bakery that makes them. $3 a piece and worth every penny.


Q:

What is the strangest/scariest thing you encountered while hiking these routes?

A:

How large is the Excel team compared to the other product teams (ie. Word, PowerPoint, Access, etc.)?


Q:

What was the funniest episode of Mythbusters you filmed?

A:

ORNL bonus points for radioactive frogs


Q:

I love you and I hate you for significantly degrading my pooping experience in the office or basically anywhere without my trusty squatty potty. Also will you please bring back the wooden teak model, it looks so much nicer. Why was it cancelled in the first place?

A:

SMBC is the most consistently good comic I've read, so thanks for making procrastinating so much easier! What is your favorite scientific field to make fun of, or which is the easiest?

Also side note, will we ever see pharmacology as a field show up in a comic?

Thanks you!!


Q:

Ran into a couple weird people in VA, I think they were mentally ill or off their meds.

I had a scary encounter with a bear in New Mexico, but I'm pretty sure it was actually a cow

A:

We are the XL team ;-)


Q:

Probably the superhero episode. I just remember dressing up in costume and running around the shop like a freak.


Q:

(Carson) The teak model never went away! Also, grab a porta-squatty for those travelling turds.

A:

Thanks!

I really enjoy economics humor, though I haven't done much lately for some reason.

Recommend me a good pharmacology book and I'll try to check it out!


Q:

This is amazing! Can you run us through your gear list?

A:

Do you guys have a preference internally between A1 and R1C1?

Also, what new features are you most excited to introduce into Excel that you're able to talk about?


Q:

What was the worst injury you have sustained on Mythbusters?

A:

Isn't X-10 the world's second nuclear reactor? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-10_Graphite_Reactor

The X-10 Graphite Reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, formerly known as the Clinton Pile and X-10 Pile, was the world's second artificial nuclear reactor (after Enrico Fermi's Chicago Pile-1), and the first designed and built for continuous operation. It was built during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project.


Q:

Do you still speak with your Shark Tank investor?

A:

Hey Zach, what do you think you'd be doing if SMBC hadn't taken off?


A:

Depends on what you mean by "preference". Internally, references are parsed to just row and column numbers, and so the distinction between R1C1 and A1 goes away. It's only when parsing formulas or displaying them back to the user that A1 versus R1C1 applies. -Jeff[Microsoft]


Q:

I only went to the emergency room once on MB. Hollywood myths I was trying to hang on to the edge of a building. When I let go I fell 10ft and my shin hit the ledge of a window below. 7 stitches later I was good to go.

A:

The Chicago pile was never permanent, it was basically, well, a pile. so that's why I said X-10 was first.

But technically yes, Fermi got there first.


Q:

(Carson) Of course! We actually worked with Lori on the release of our latest video.

A:

Hard to say. SMBC lifted me out of a shitty job, then later got me out of finishing a science degree.

Honest best bet - I'd probably be a mediocre (but not unhappy) physicist, or maybe be a stay-at-home Dad writing fiction in his spare time.


Q:

Hi guys!

Do you miss me?!

A:

Was there a myth on the show that you were personally afraid to test?


Q:

What is the best way to beat an Exodia Deck?

A:
  1. What does the Squatty Potty do that a regular step stool would not?
  2. My husband is not on board the Squatty Potty train. Might a collapsible version be made in the future?

Q:

Hey Zach, I love your comics.

Was it tough growing up with that last name though?

A:

Some days, but fortunately they let you out of the Microsoft Archives some days and we get to see you around campus. -Ben[Microsoft]


Q:

Anything involving heights I tend to stay away from.

A:

Black Lotus.


Q:

"Bobby" The Squatty Potty is definitely an improvement to a regular step stool. In fact it was created to replace my mothers "poop stool" which was a step stool from walmart. The Squatty Potty height, width angle and ability to hug the toilet give the pooper optimal squatting posture. I liken a regular stool to cutting a steak with a butter knife, yeah you can do it but when you switch to a steak knife (squatty potty) its much easier and quicker

A:

Well, I grew up hard and I grew up mean. My fists got hard and my wits got keen. So, it wasn't too bad.

The truth is Weiner is probably preferable to a name adjacent to Weiner, because all people can do is say "HEY WEINER." I imagine it'd be worse if it were pronounced like "whiner" and I had to defend the proper pronunciation over time.

Fortunately, I got married, and now have a nice dignified last name.


Q:

Have you ever considered integrating excel formulas into other Microsoft Office tables? Whenever I work on a table in OneNote or Word I find myself wanting to type =sum()

A:

Also, have you ever had to work with any celebrities (not asking for names!) that you just refuse to work with again? If so, what sort of behavior was it that caused it?


Q:

Which element do you find to have the most unexpected properties?

A:

It's much more comfortable, your legs are up to the sides, rather than directly in front of you. It also tucks away "underneath" the toilet so you don't trip over it when you run into the bathroom

Very handy


Q:

Was the "red button" always a feature in the smbc website? If not, when did it start?

A:

Word has some basic formula capabilities ...

-Sam[Microsoft]


Q:

Kari Byron!...Just kidding.

A:

Oganesson is really strange. It might not have any electron shells, and it's probably a solid at room temperature - which is mad considering it's in the noble gases!


Q:

(jason) - We designed the slim for that exact reason. We wanted to open the front so it would be easier to go (more foot room) https://www.squattypotty.com/shop/poop-better/slim-teak/

A:

Lonnng ago, we used to participate in these online voting sites, where you tried to climb ranks by getting people to click a button. As an inducement, I'd draw a bonus panel you saw after voting. Over time, it became a normal feature of the site, so that even after we stopped doing the voting site stuff, I felt like the panels needed to stay. HENCE, the red button. Also, hence, why longterm readers still sometimes call it the "votey" or "votey comic."


Q:

When are we going to be able to play Doom on Excel?

A:

If you can have one piece of tech from all the fictional universes you were involved in. What would it be and why?


Q:

Really apologise to ask you such a silly question, but how does this have no electron shells? Amazing AMA btw!

A:

Now that I am pooping better, what are you doing to ensure I will continue this path and that your next product will move me further towards my goal of pooping perfect?


Q:

So how nihilistic/cynical are you in real life? Or is it all just theoretical?

A:

In order to get Couath / Collab working, we had to deprioritize playing Doom in Excel. Maybe an Add-in will be made? - Michael [Microsoft]


Q:

Light saber! Great question.

A:

As someone writing for a chemistry mag, I know this is weird. Have a look at this link.


Q:

(Carson) Soon we'll be coming out with our brand new religion, Poostafarian. That should help you reach poo nirvana.

A:

This is pretty close to autobiographical: http://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/the-consolation-of-philosophy


Q:

Hey guys,

Is there a way to key into a cell with the writing prompt at the end of the text already in there, so you can add on to it instead of overwriting it?

Edit: Glad there's more people like me.

A:

We see on camera that yourself, Kari, and Grant have a great rapport. Do you continue to see them outside of the office?


Q:

Chocolate lab or black lab? My grandfather always had golden labs for hunting, but I prefer darker dogs. There's no particular reason I do, just aesthetics.

In your travel, which have you found to be better?

A:

Why didn't you say "maybe you've tried our stool that helps you get your stool out easier"?


Q:

Sorry to go off on a tangent here, but you linking an old comic brought this to mind. Zach, there's no good way to search the SMBC archives and it's really hampering my ability to quickly post "relevant SMBC" links for that glorious karma in order to spread awareness of your most excellent webcomic. Normally when I try to find a specific, half remembered comic, I end up spending half an hour on it until I either give up or find it but the offhand comment that sent me down the rabbit hole has long passed.

I'm actually still trying to find one you did a while ago where some characters are arguing about the distinction between something that is alive and not alive, then the punch line is about how God thought it would be funny to creat a universe where all meaningful distinctions are arbitrary. That one comes up surprisingly often and I still can't find the damn thing.

A:

Yes you can, using F2 shortcut.

Olaf (Microsoft)


Q:

I see Kari all the time and now that our White Rabbit Project Live tour is starting I'll be seeing both of them more.

A:

They're all good dogs, brooks.


Q:

(Jason) - Hilarious. We had a team of writers. There were so many one liners that didn't make the cut. One day, I would love to do a short film that is longer. Edit: word

A:

Yeah, sorry, we need to fix that. Meantime, you can always ask https://www.reddit.com/r/SMBCComics/


Q:

What's the best way for me to become the 'Excel Guy' at work?

A:

About 10 years ago you were in Windsor, Ontario on a tour speaking to kids. The extra tickets were turned over to the university and I was able to attend. In your talk you showed your Mythbusters audition tape “Do girls fart?” and also a video of a childhood experiment that I think was just a pipe bomb that you filmed from 6 feet away. Any chance you could share those videos again?


Q:

Hello, my father was a chemist for 30 years and still is really into chemistry news and stuff. Your journey and book sound super interesting and I would love to share it with him, only issue is that he doesn't read English fluently. Do you know if your book will be published in other languages (French in particular) by any chance?

A:

Do you have any nursing homes which you sell to in bulk? What is some of the most surprising or best results that you have observed or reported by someone who suffered from colon cancer for example.


Q:

Zach, I’ve been reading SMBC for years and years now so I appreciate all the laughs. How do you stay productive when feeling unmotivated?

A:
1. do vlookup and pivots 2. ???? 3. profit as the Excel Guy 

-Sam[Microsoft]


Q:

Oh man! That was a while ago. I'll look through my video files and see if I can find them.

A:

I hope so! It's certainly going to be available worldwide.


Q:

(jason) - We have received multiple reports from respected research groups, all give it amazing reviews. We tread lightly on promising any major medical fixes. But 2/3rds of the world squat to poop (asia- india- turkey). We know that squatting aides posture, reduces pressure, and improves elimination and comfort while eliminating

A:

It helps that comics pay for food and shelter.

I also have a daily schedule I'm pretty strict about. When working from home, keeping disciplined can be pretty tough. There's an extent to which it's a skill you have to practice. In terms of staying productive on "creative" work, I suggest you think deeply about what you were doing at times when you felt most able to make good work. For me, it involves reading difficult books, being a bit stressed out, and having at least lead a few books that same week.


Q:

What is the most amazing thing you've done with Excel?

A:

Did the build team get booted from the show by the producers? by Adam and Jamie? or did you guys decide to leave on your own?

Did you really enjoy the skits you guys did re: myths (i.e. the prison break).

Where did you guys go to shoot your machine gun myths?


Q:

Why?

A:

Can only humans use it?


Q:

Do you still see Screech regularly?

A:

A long time ago, not very far away, I analyzed my Halo 2 data in Excel and it was popular for 15 mins.

-Sam[Microsoft]


Q:

It was a combination of circumstances. The show had run it's course and we were ready to move on to new opportunities.

A:

I take a hands-on approach to research. Sure, I could read the theoretical papers, but it doesn't tell you the vibe of the place, or the behind-the-scenes stories, or what a nuclear reactor smells like.

The only way I could write a book that told the whole story, in a fair way, was to be there, speak with the people that did it, and see it with my own eyes.

It's the most amazing adventure I've had in my life.


Q:

(Carson) I'm genuinely curious what you're wanting to use it for now.

A:

I refuse to get this joke.


Q:

VLookup or Index Match?

A:

How did MB change your life the most? Did you begin to be recognised on the street, and did you expect that when you started? Oddest/best fan interaction?


Q:

How did you pay for 36,000 miles of travel ?

A:

Will you create an adjustable squatty potty?


Q:

We meet up with him at The Max pretty regularly.

A:

INDEX/MATCH - Once you get used to it, you can write them almost as fast as VLOOKUP, and the combination is more powerful/efficient. Smitty [MSFT]


Q:

Being recognized definitely took time to get used to. The best interactions are when fans recognize me, but can't place where they know me from. Did we go to school together? Do you work at my dry cleaners? So funny.

A:

A book advance. :)


Q:

(Jason) We offer the 2.0 Squatty Potty.. It comes with a 7" base and a topper that increases to 9". Cheers Bill

A:

ಠ_ಠ


Q:

1. Any plans for Cortana?
2. What are the major changes in Excel 2019?
3. Have you guys seen this?

Thank you, appriciate the AMA

A:

What's the most scared you've been on the job?


Q:

The concept of creating new elements is insane to me and extremely interesting! What did the people you met consider to be the hardest or most abstract concept when it came to discovering or creating these new elements? Another question to go along is what is the general process and techniques needed to find these elements?

A:

What would you most like to tell us that no one has asked about?


Q:

The philosophy in your comic seems pretty broad and insightful to my cretin mind. What do you read/watch/smell/eat for inspiration?

A:
  1. it is a great idea (a partner already created a prototype).
  2. We have not fully locked the feature list yet, but we will post it to our Excel Blog as soon as we do

  3. Yes, have you seen this


Q:

On White Rabbit Project I built a 1902 replica race car, the Baker Torpedo. I got it up to 80mph and when I applied the brakes the bolts sheered and I was heading for a cliff at the end of the runway with no brakes. At the last minute I cranked the wheel left and the car came to a stop.

A:

The big problem is that you have to shoot your projectile into a target with enough energy to overcome the natural repulsion of the nucleus (otherwise it bounces off), but not enough energy for it to undergo nuclear fission (which breaks it apart). That means you have to be really creative - it's not just about picking two elements whose numbers add up to what you want. We've got pretty good ideas how to get to elements 119 and 120. After that... nobody really knows. We had a really amazing projectile (Calcium-48, a very neutron-rich isotope), but we had to stop using it as we can't produce enough of the target materials!

The other challenge is actually detecting what you've done. Again, incredibly hard, especially as these elements aren't around very long. Today we're using machines so sensitive that, for example, if you used it to weigh a 747 airplane, you could tell if you left a penny on one of the seats.

I liken it to shooting at a needle in a haystack, the bullet hitting the needle and fusing into something new, and then catching that bullet-needle as it flies out before it hits the ground.


Q:

(Carson) No one asked how my poop was this morning. It was great!

A:

I try to read everything. Lately, I've been reading all of Nevil Shute, in part because it's a busy time and I find Shute very relaxing.

I haven't had as much time for philosophy and science lately, but am hoping to get back into it more once our kids are a bit older.


Q:

Is it true that the Excel logo is an X (and a small L) instead of an E, to avoid this?

A:

What's your favorite album?


Q:

I went looking for more information on Calcium-48 and found https://www.sciencealert.com/the-calcium-52-isotope-might-have-just-lost-its-magic-status which says that Calcium-52 was momentarily thought to also be a magic-number nucleus, but then was found to probably not be as its nucleus-radius is larger than theory predicted. Has theory caught up yet for why this is so?

A:

Did you ever think you'd be doing an AMA while someone is writing to you while using your product? Cause that's me, I am doing that right now. Thank you, my partner in poop.

Ps I use your unicorn video whenever I try to pitch clients on making something hysterical and powerful


Q:

On The Beach is one of the most engaging books I have read. I have never had as much trouble grocery shopping as I did during reading that book. I mean, what’s the point? We are all going to die.

A:

The Excel logo has been an X and an L longer than these other products have been around. -Eric[Microsoft]


Q:

Nevermind by Nirvana

A:

Not sure, to be honest. I know that we're not really looking at Ca beams, even for island of stability. I'll ask and find out, though.


Q:

(Carson) That's the only place to be when asking the Squatty Potty team a question. It allows you to channel your inner poop.

A:

It's a great book, but I'm more fond of Pied Piper and Requiem for a Wren. On the Beach is not very characteristic of Shute, though it's still excellent.


Q:

When will the Mac version get multiprocessor support?

A:

Was it you or Adam who got on Jaime Hyneman's nerves more? haha


Q:

Why do the Russian team JINR have so much success in creating the synthetic elements? Are they getting the base elements drunk so that the impacting elements have an easier time hitting them?

A:

How frustrating was it to get Kathy Griffin for a funny commercial, only to have her create a controversy and subsequently no longer use that advertisement?


Q:

I tried making some puerco pibil for my family and it didn't turn out well. The meat was very tender but it was way too sour

Could you please cheer me up? I'm sad

A:

Thanks for the question - we are actively working on this, but you can add your vote to support it anyway on Excel.UserVoice.com.
- Steve [Microsoft]


Q:

I think you already have the answer to that one. ha!

A:

Well, JINR does produce its own brand of vodka (I have a bottle)...


Q:

(bobby) It sucked. I am actually a Kathy fan and support her right to demonstrate her feelings toward a president she feels threatened by. The problem we had is that we just want to help people poop better and not get all political about it. When our spokesperson went there, we decided to just drop the campaign and go back to magical unicorns and awesome dragons who don't give a shit about who is in office.

A:

Cheer up - one day you'll be dead and then you'll stop doing so many things wrong.


Q:

I know it's not the intended purpose of excel, but excel games made otherwise boring days behind my desk wonderful. So thank you for that.

What excel features both built-in or not do you wish more people knew about/or knew how to use?

A:

Ariana's buttock on the stool : myth confirmed or busted ? your opinion ?


Q:

If someone find a new element, can they name it after themselfs?

A:

My son has a birthday coming up. Can we hire the unicorn for entertainment and dessert?


Q:

that helps, I suppose

Thanks

A:

I love seeing what kind of creative things people come up with in Excel! It makes learning it so much more fun.

For features, mine is PivotTables, especially creating table relationships with the Data Model. Smitty [MSFT]


Q:

Photoshop: Busted

A:

Yes. The IUPAC rules say you can name an element after:

1) A place

2) A mythical creature

3) A property of the element

4) A mineral

5) A scientist

To be honest, IUPAC would probably reject the name unless you'd done something really noteworthy. Only two scientists directly involved in element discovery have had elements named after them: Glenn Seaborg (seaborgium, 106) and Yuri Oganessian (oganesson, 118).

Sort of. Gallium is a bit of an odd one, and Fermi got his Nobel for element discovery, although he isn't credited with discovering one.


Q:

"Bobby" Dookie is incredibly busy. I'll ask his agent for you.

A:

Also, tonight's failed dinner is tomorrow's pie.


Q:

Well you apparently worked on a ton of stuff that defined my childhood. Any memorable moments from your movie work?

A:

Check out the list of elements discovered by the UC Berkeley Rad Lab or Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Wonderfully self-referencing.

Things like Californium and Lawrencium.


Q:

Who came up with the unicorn poop idea? Is there a story behind it?

A:

Given how long SMBC has been going, do you ever accidentally get an idea for a comic that you've already done? Do you have to go back and check your previous comics to make sure you don't repeat? Or are you just clever/insane enough that no joke enters your brain twice?


Q:

Starship Trooper was the first movie I worked on at Industrial Light and Magic and it is the one movie I'm most proud of.

A:

The New Yorker magazine actually complained that they didn't name the elements Universium Ofium Berkelium Californium.

Also it's not named after the labs, but the towns. Lawrencium was after Ernest Lawrence.


Q:

(Carson) We actually did a video about it. The choice to go with the unicorn pooping ice cream was a fairly big risk to our business that paid off massively.

A:

Yeah. A few times I've actually drawn the same idea twice. What's really weird is how similar they end up being.


Q:

I just want you to know that is my favorite movie to watch drunk.

A:

Would you say that different countries\labs come up with different ways to approach discovering new elements, or do labs follow somewhat standard protocol with few additions here and there?


Q:

Is there any movement towards a portable Squatty Potty?

A:

Do you maintain a buffer of comics that are ready but unpublished in case shit happens and you can't finish on time? How many days could you update without actually making any new comics, if you had to?


Q:

Yes!

A:

The basic principle is the same, but there are differences depending on which beams/targets to use, and also things like how you detect the elements (setting up separators and magnets etc).

The big difference was really in the 1970s/80s. GSI discovered their elements through the 'cold fusion' technique, which used heavier beams than ever before. But this gives you a really small cross section so can't be used anymore.

The current race is really between Japan and Russia, and they are using different beams and targets and pretty different equipment.


A:

Normally yes, but it's been tough now that we had kids. Right now I'm a few weeks ahead, since we're starting our book tour.


Q:

Dunno if you have answer this, but after "Hot Chile Cures" ep, did it made you love or hate spicy food more or less?

A:

Nice, you were literally just up the street from me here in Darmstadt, Wixhausen.

How do you feel about the repeated snub of not naming an element Wixhausium? A lot of Germans feel strongly about it as "Wix" is also slang for masturbate.


Q:

Anything compact enough to fit in a backpack? Maybe even in two pieces, one for each foot. Something for students or frequent travellers.

A:

If you could genetically modify your offspring, what changes would you make to them?


Q:

I still enjoy spicy foods, but I cringe when I smell habanero peppers.

A:

I passed through Wixhausen on Wednesday. It's not very large, so I can understand why they went for Hesse and Darmstadt. Some great pizza, though.

And I wasn't aware of the slang... that's a bit awkward. I do know that the Americans used to propose rude slang for some of the elements as a joke - and even picked Pu for plutonium because of 'obvious reasons', which I take to mean it says 'poo'. So it wouldn't be totally random.


Q:

(Carson) The Porta Squatty can actually fit in a decent sized purse. It'll easily fit in most backpacks.

A:

Despite stereotypes, higher IQ is associated with pretty much universally positive effects, so I'd go with that. I say that not without reservations about genetically upgrading babies.


Q:

Hi Tory!
 
Two quick questions: What was your favorite Myth to bust? And what was the most surprising result or conclusion you and the crew ever came to?
 
Thanks for doing this!

A:

What do you do for fun?


Q:

Should have called it the Pop-A-Squat.

A:

Your comic has one of the most diverse casts of characters within it. Was this a conscious decision of yours to do?


Q:

Dynamite Cement Truck.

A:

I play a loooooot of computer games.

Currently blasting my way through Bolivia in Ghost Recon: Wildlands. It's...eh, it's OK. After that I'll probably revisit Witcher 3 (favourite game) or Fallout: New Vegas with some graphics mods.


Q:

(Carson) During father’s day we typically do a post about Bill, one of our founders. We lovingly refer to him as “Poppa-Squat” since he’s the father of Squatty Potty.

A:

It was, maybe around 2010 or so. It's not something I try to call attention to, because it seems to me to be more in the category of decency than goodness, if that makes sense.

To this very day I get accused of virtue signalling, and every time that happens it warms my little heart.


Q:

How did it feel to work on Star Wars? Were you a fan when you saw it as a kid?

A:

Do you like tactics/strategy games like XCOM? Or tabletop RPGs like DnD?


Q:

do you think you'll expand to working with food products that make things more... regular?

A:

I've always liked to pretend that you make the comic with just blank characters and then use a randomizer to determine gender/race at the end. True or False?


Q:

Star Wars changed my life as a kid. It was a dream come true to get to work on the Star Wars movies.

A:

Yeah, one of my childhood favourites was UFO: Enemy Unknown and I love the new XCOM. Haven't got Chosen expansion for 2 yet; waiting until there's a Longwar mod.


Q:

(Carson) While I don't know if we'll ever get into food products, we're planning on working with some chefs and bloggers to create recipes that help you poop with ease. We'll probably post those on our blog and Facebook pages.

A:

No randomizer. Just, try to keep things various.


Q:

Has there ever been a project you took on, regretted half-way through, and had it end up being one of your favorites when done? Or have you pretty much always ended feeling the same way you started?

A:

Which lab was your favorite and why?

And where there big differences between the labs? I mean, was there a lab which was huge and had super expensive stuff while there were others that were like a classroom or something?


Q:

Hi guys, fantastic product and advertising. Poop is weird and the word is funny for everyone, and with your unicorn...you made it weirder and funnier.
Can we see what your prototype looked like?

A:

I mean, what possible reason could you have for having a diverse cast except to make people say "wow, that guy is a really virtuous dude"

Why would any character be non-white and/or non-straight unless those factors are required for the joke, I just cannot get my tiny brain around it.

(That's sarcasm, if it wasn't obvious)


Q:

My first week on Mythbusters. I left ILM where I was working on big special effects movies, next thing I knew I was scraping chicken guts off the walls of Jamie's shop. I almost quit, but I'm very glad I stuck it out.

A:

Some labs have funding. Others don't. So I went from somewhere like Oak Ridge, which has an operating budget of billions, to somewhere like JINR, which has some labs (JINR has several different labs, all looking at different things) with buildings abandoned and boarded up for decades because they were less successful.

Funding is the name of the game, here. Funding and beam time.


Q:

(Carson) We actually made this video private, but I think it'll be fun for people to see how far we've come. This was the first video we made. It shows our original stool design (that we've since changed massively) and also shows how much better our new commercials are!

A:

Similarly, the only reason I bathe is to hygiene signal.


Q:

Can you make a machine that will pay off my student loans?

A:

As an element collector, most of us will never have anything above element 92 in our collections (for the most part). Did you come across any cool novelties that one might use in a collection to represent the superheavy elements?


Q:

Which Shark were you most afraid of?

A:

My pre-ordered-from-April Soonish copy arrived to my neighbor and I nearly had a stroke. Is there a medical condition for anxiety from misdirected internet orders of geeky books or do we have to wait for ICD-11/DSM 6 for that?

Second question: typing Soonish into my Amazon app I get Spanish book recommendations. What will your next book misdirect to?


Q:

It already exists. It's called a phone. Call your family.

A:

I have lapel pins for 116 and 117, a 114/116 discovery medal, a 112-branded LED cube, and some element-branded pens.

Also I've got a periodic table signed by everyone I spoke with, including Yuri Oganessian, which is unique (nobody else has someone from every lab, including the lead discoverers of 107+). I'm planning to auction that for a children's charity.


Q:

(Carson) There's that one cookie cutter shark that can supposedly cut holes in submarines. Absolutely terrifying.

A:

re: anxiety - we can fix it with CRISPR

re Spanish - damn. I wish it would just direct you to my other books. Preferably one of the more expensive ones.


Q:

How many other guys have you met that also have the name Tory?

A:

Has any work gone into the detection of man-made elements in atmospheres of other planets?


Q:

Who was your biggest inspiration in creating this glorious masterpiece?

A:

Lots of your longer comics (like the one about the moon colony populated by prize winners) take a hypothetical scientific advancement or political decision and explores the consequences for humour. Have you ever considered fleshing out a comic idea into a longer-form comic book? I'd totally buy something like that if you made it.


Q:

Weirdly enough on the set of MB and WRP we had a builder named Tory.

A:

Not too much in terms of exoplanets etc, but there is work trying to determine if superheavy elements (which are the man-made ones) exist in nature. One way to do that is to look at olivine crystals in meteorites - if your meteorite has been floating around space for a billion or so years, you can look at what smashed into it a long time ago by the traces left in the olivine.


Q:

(Jason) - The Squatty Potty was originally a garage idea made to help Mom Poop better. After 7 kids, she had developed severe constipation and was using clunky books and weird poop stools. We studied the natural squat, added a hill to toe pitch and the U shape to get it out the way when not in use. Then the magic started happen. Hard work and luck have been good to us. Mom and Dad, raised 7 kids and found this success in their late 60's its a dream story thanks to all of friends and media folks. We are just so thankful to everyone and hope that the inventions continues to improve the natural elimination we all desire.

A:

It's a goal of mine during the next five years.


Q:

Plan to do anymore racing soon? How did you enjoy Lemons?

A:

Hello, great AMA! Just wondering what is the average stability time for some of the newly discovered elements?


Q:

I used the Squatty Potty for a couple months, and I found that simply leaning forward helped just as much as the Squatty Potty, and I found it more comfortable too. What do you have to say about this?

A:

Hey Zach, I'm a really big fan of your work and can't wait to read Soonish. Now that you've finished Soonish, what's your next Big Project?


Q:

24hrs of Lemons was awesome! I want to do it again. I approached them about doing a tv show.

A:

The heaviest, Og, is about 7 ms. Others are a few seconds, until you get to the actinides (103 and lower), where you start getting hours, days etc.

Edit: I am a fool and out by a thousand. I mean 7 milliseconds. Corrected.


Q:

You are a freak of nature "bobby"

A:

Likely order of operations:

1) New SMBC book, with a new abridged minibook

2) Pro-immigration non-fic graphic novel with Bryan Caplan

3) SOMETHING ELSE ENTIRELY?!

Aspirationally, I'd also like to do some serious fiction writing, some books for little kids, and maybe some young adult fiction. But, time is limited, and unfortunately I have a very happy family who like spending time with me.


Q:

Do you have any favorite YouTube channels to recommend?

A:

1)What are the chances of discovering a new element that is stable enough for the proton numbers to be registered?

2)How were the researchers able to identify certain particles as new elements while they have extremely short half lives?


Q:

I bought one of these after seeing an ad on Facebook and it has significantly improved the way that I poop. No matter where I am now that's not my home bowl, I need to find something to prop my feet up on, whether it's the garbage can, my backpack, or some other make shift squatter.

I keep insisting to my girlfriend that it's amazing, but she keeps insisting that it's just in the way and that she keeps scraping her ankles on it (I have no idea how, I never do). Can you tell her how wrong she is so I can show her later and gloriously bask in the triumphant victory?

A:

Thanks for the answer, I'd really like to read some serious fiction writing from you! Good luck with all those projects!


Q:

Corridor Digital

A:

1) For 119 and 120, pretty good. We have a good way to get to them, so I expect them to be discovered in the next five years.

2) There's a few ways. You can detect fission, you can detect radioactive decay, you can do mass measurements. The sensitivity of the detectors is astonishing.


Q:

(Carson) Yo Rizface’s girlfriend, you’re wrong.

A:

I'm sure I'll do it eventually. Just a matter of time...


Q:

Are you still building/making stuff? I see mentions on your Twitter of a comic, anything else? If you aren't, anything you would like to be doing?

A:

What are you having for lunch?


Q:

I loved that you guys introduced a more aesthetically pleasing slim teak version of the Squatty Potty and ordered it. I was super not enthused that it had the image of a squatting person and your logo huge across the top of it. At $90 (I see now, the price has gone down to $60), it was also not cheap for me to have to spend an hour sanding it all off. Can you offer a version that has more discreet branding (like maybe the underside of the top?), even if you have to charge more for it? Because I and a lot of other people would buy more of them.

A:

Hi Zach! Have you ever considered compiling a book of all the hate mail you get? Like a "best of" kind of thing. It would only make sense, considering how much you openly invite the stuff.


Q:

I have a horror movie I'm writing now so I'm stoked on that at them moment.

A:

I had fish and chips (I'm in the UK). Mushy peas on the side.


Q:

(Carson) That’s a good question! I’ll bring it up to our product development team and see what they think.

A:

I'm afraid I really get very little hatemail. Ages ago I used to do a lot of creationism jokes, and then I got a bit more. I think as the comic has gotten nerdier I get less hate and more "this is slightly incorrect, sir."


Q:

When I was young watching mythbusters I always thought you and Kari Byron were a thing, were you guys together at some point?

A:

Who is the coolest scientist you have met and why?


Q:

Any amazing testimonials as a result of your product?

A:

Will there be a Starpocalypse Season Two?
— Somebody who bought Starpocalypse Season One, and wants to buy Starpocalypse Season Two.


Q:

No, just good friends. She's like my lil sister.

A:

I had a BBQ and a beer with George Smoot. He was really funny - told me a lot about working on the Big Bang Theory and winning Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?. That was a pretty chill evening.


Q:

"bobby"

My favorite is this Haiku

Amazon Review 5.0 out of 5 starsLove this thing! ByWm. Jonathan Bradshawon September 23, 2015 Verified Purchase ---- Oh Squatty Potty, You fill me with endless joy, Yet leave me empty.

A:

I'm afraid there almost certainly won't be. Video is quite expensive and difficult, and the video stuff never quite turned a profit. Thank you, though!


Q:

What are your thoughts on the Mythbusters reboot? Do you think the show should have ended when Jamie and Adam left, or are you happy to see the legacy continue?

A:

Some strange elements tend to have properties that make them extremely difficult to study. For example, Copernicium has a half-life of only 29 seconds, and Francium would probably explode upon contacting the moisture in the air. How do you guys deal with it?


Q:

What is the likelihood that standard, automotive battery packs will be developed so that service stations can just swap out depleted units?

A:

I haven't really checked it out, but good luck to them.


Q:

With timing, the answer is 'very quickly'. Equipment is set up as close to the target as possible, down the beamline, so you extract the new atom and it goes straight into your experiment. You can do basic experiments (like running it along a temperature gradient, seeing if it forms compounds with things).

Also the more you produce, the more you can experiment on. Known decay chains mean that you can predict when an element will decay (alpha radiation, so losing a helium), meaning you can plan accordingly. 114 becomes 112 etc. That also gives you options.

A:

This is a book about more mediumterm and longterm technologies, so we don't get into things like self-driving cars, ecars, solar panels, etc. Plus, those things are amply covered in other books.

So, we're not particularly well-read on that topic. Personally, I'd be in favor of energy beaming for electric cars. If we had that and autonomous cars, I'd just live in a trailer that never stopped moving.


Q:

Will there be more of the White Rabbit Project?

A:

Undergraduate student here. How did you get into academic journalism? I really want to pursue a career as a science researcher and journalist, but was wondering what launched you into the field in the first place?


Q:

How do you feel knowing you've taken so much money from me? I have monocles, Augie, Sciences and bibles, now soonish, at least one choose your own adventure in physical format plus the rest in digital??? I hope awesome, cause I enjoyed it all and hope to continue enjoying it! Thanks for everything!

A:

Ask Netflix. It's a bummer, because we were so happy with the way the show turned out, but a lot of people didn't even know we had a new show.


Q:

Got bored, wrote an article for my trade mag. They gave me money. I liked money.

Seriously, the best way to get into it is to start writing. Make a blog, get on social media. Start engaging with other science communicators (there are loads of great ones out there). It spirals from there.

A:

Feels good man.

(for real though, thanks - people like you make the weirder projects possible)


Q:

Aside from basic needs, what is the best thing you have ever bought?

A:

What are the differences in labs across the world ? And also can you name all the countries please ?


Q:

Would you be willing to do a strip (or series of strips) with Randall Munroe of XKCD fame? If so, what kind of format would they have? i.e. he writes, you draw/you write, he draws/you tell one story but each stick to your normal format /something else entirely..?

A:

I just bought an iPad pro with Procreate sketch. I can't put it down.


Q:

Sure! US, Japan, Germany and Russia are the main four. I've also been talking to labs in Switzerland, Poland, the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

The labs are all very reflective of their countries. The US are very laid back, the German lab is really hard to find but very cool (they've modernised the new building with glass sides); the Japanese lab is very close to Wako City, so it's got an electric vibe, although it was ridiculously hot when I was there. The Russian lab is cold, and very much as you'd expect for a lab that was built during the 1950s.

A:

I did a guest comic once! https://xkcd.com/826/

I'm always happy to work with anyone awesome, though I haven't had much time for full-on collaboration lately.


Q:

When you signed up for MythBusters did you know it would be so painful or hazardous?

A:

Was it easy to get permission for entry into all the labs ?


Q:

Do you get mistaken for Randall Munroe (aka that xkcd guy) a lot? If so, how does it make you feel?

A:

I blame myself for that. I really need to learn how to say no.


Q:

Some were easier than others. Some I just asked, a few I had to submit all kinds of details beforehand to do security. And of course international visas for journalism, which can take a bit of paperwork.

A:

I don't, actually. It's just a dumb joke :)


Q:

If you had a time machine where would you visit?

A:

Which lab do you think was unlikeliest to discover and which one felt like it was inevitable? Why?


Q:

Really enjoying the comics but there is one fatal flaw on the website and that is the navigation. Its basically impossible to watch old comics that are not the oldest without skipping through 100 pages. Maybe having a 6 month interval-led counter could help. Without the random function its a bell curve of inaccessibility basically where the oldest and newest are accessible but the rest isnt. Could this be changed?

A:

The Jurassic Period.


Q:

Inevitable is hard to say, but the best chance is between RIKEN in Japan and JINR in Russia. The Japanese team starts in a month, the Russians a bit later, but the Russian approach might have the better chance. The Japanese team won't stop until they discover a new element though, so I wouldn't rule them out!

A:

We're working on a way to sort by subject. Maybe we could add timespan as well!


Q:

What did it feel like when Kari was 'mind controlling' you? Did it hurt?

A:

If you're a science journalist then can you tell us how important Rick & Morty is to the field of science?


Q:

Hi Zach,

I don't think I really have a question, but your comic with the guy dressed in Victorian garb being banned from the Ren Faire still makes me laugh. I have it up in my office.

So, question.... Uh.... Make more history jokes?

A:

It hurt like hell! Funny, but painful.


Q:

They brought back that damn sauce, didn't they?

A:

I dooo need to do that. Haven't had as much time to read history lately.


Q:

Did you ever get back at Scottie for the wagon bike jump?

A:

Wow! great to see Super Heavy is getting some coverage! Can you share some cherished moments you had when talking to the scientists?


Q:

What is your inspiration to make comics about the more obscure subjects?

A:

No, but I do get to torture Kari from time to time.


Q:

Some of the stories they have are crazy. Transporting giant magnets through war zones, being bugged by the KGB, trying to ship this highly radioactive material via commercial airliners and it ending up going back and forth over the Atlantic several times.

I think it's the small stuff, though. Once I was going out of a building in Berkeley, and a tour guide was talking about Glenn Seaborg (one of the most famous element creators), and was saying in this wonderful Californian accent 'So, like, this guy Seaborg? His name is an anagram of "Go bears!"'. It's moments like that you can't script - why you need to go and visit people and see the world.

And I guess sports are a big deal at UCB. :D

A:

I mostly write in response to what I'm currently reading. So, if the topic is obscure, it's probably because I was reading some weird book recently.


Q:

Were there ever any myths you wanted to test but never got around to it?

A:

Any advice for aspiring journalists/ science journalists? (How do you find stories, how worthwhile is grad school, and how likely am I to be able to find a job in science communication upon graduating college?)

And how long have you had to research and write the book?


Q:

Hey! Just wanted to say I'm a huge fan. Loved the earlier comics in all their geekery but I have to wonder if you've given much thought to smaller social structures like polyamorous relationships and such.

But the real question: how much of the earlier strips dealing with raising kids do you find yourselves seriously tempted to do?

A:

Going over the Niagara Falls in a barrel. Obviously I would get to build a super barrel out of space age materials.


Q:

I'm still researching. Ask me when I'm done!

Advice... start doing sci comm now. A lot of countries have competitions, meet ups, tweet-ups. Get involved as soon as you can. The UK has Fame Lab and Bright Club, for example.

Also start a blog. Get writing. Talk about what interests you. Build a community. That kind of social interaction is invaluable to learn good writing, particularly in science, and in impressing potential employers.

A:

I've occasionally done jokes about poly couples, but I'm not exactly sure how much humor potential there is there?

It's funny - I was told after having kids that jokes about being mean to children seem less funny. I've had the exact opposite experience.


Q:

I love everyone from Mythbusters, but you, Kari, and Grant seem like great friends in real life. You are a joy to watch together! Thanks for the good times!

How many times a day at the shop did you think to yourself, "I have the best job on Earth and I'm one of the five luckiest mofos alive!"?

A:

Could heavy elements 118 and higher be created during kilonovas like the one that happened earlier this week? I read that elements like gold, platinum and uranium were created during this event. would it even be possible to detect them if they were created?


Q:

For your viewing pleasure

r/childrenfallingover

A:

I would think that to myself several times a day.


Q:

Yeah, that was really cool as I was at GSI the day after the event (and of course we've just had the Nobel prizes for gravitational waves).

Not sure if that particular event would produce superheavies, but in terms of detection, the best hope is actually looking at meteorites. Traces in olivine crystals and the like showing impacts of elements from billions of years ago can be measured, showing you the mass of what hit - and from the mass you can prove if a superheavy element existed before it decayed.

A:

I am SO already there.


Q:

Do you have a desire to go back into making special effects for movies or non-educational TV shows (such as The Expanse, or the new Star Wars/Star Trek films)?

A:

What's your favorite element and why?


Q:

I've always wondered, why is God in SMBC represented as a golden disk/pizza?

A:

I do miss model making. I was hoping that the old model shop was going to get some work in for The Force Awakens, but it never happened.


Q:

Before this, it used to be boron. Boron is weird.

Now, I'd probably say oganesson. It's really weird to personally know someone who has an element named after them on the periodic table (indeed, the only person alive with an element named after them). Yuri is also just a wonderful guy - really friendly and very generous with his time.

This is my first feature on him.

A:

Mostly because I wanted God to be abstract. He's loosely based on the way they drew halos in Baroque art.


Q:

Where can we check out some of your sculptures/paintings?

A:

How generous is he with his vodka?


Q:

What saith you to the very likely, and all but proven, accusation that you are, in actual fact, a robot? The world needs to know.

A:

torybelleci.com


Q:

Very. We had a good night, and they gave me a bottle to take home.

A:

01001000 01101111 01110111 00100000 01100100 01100001 01110010 01100101 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101


Q:

Which was the hardest myth to get the insurance company/producers to let you actually test rather than putting a dummy in the situation?

A:

Did you go to Cornwall where titanium (manaccanite) was discovered?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POphxfF7S0E


Q:

Will rated: "Not as in depth as I would have liked. And the jokes are weak."

What would you say to Will? (*I am not Will)

A:

There were many. When I fell through the awnings for an Indiana Jones myth they wouldn't let Adam do, but apparently I was expendable. haha! We used the same insurance company that insured Jackass.


Q:

No, I'm only writing about man-made elements (except technetium and promethium). I've been to Cornwall before, though.

A:

Depth: Most people have actually said we're more in-depth than typical pop-sci. Given then we're covering each area in 10k words or fewer, I don't think we really could go more in depth without having stacks of equations or something. But, if Will wants more depth, there's what one reviewer called a "gratifyingly large" bibliography.

As for the jokes - Will is scientifically incorrect. The jokes contain references to both poo and butts.


Q:

Man Mythbusters steered me towards engineering, whats the most difficult thing you've had to build in your career??? Thanks!

A:

Is Bob Lazar right about this?


Q:

If there was a Zachy-treat (or Kellyy-treat), like a small piece of food one could use to teach you tricks, what would it be?

A:

Stoked you were influenced by the show. Hardest thing ever to build was probably the earthquake shake table. That thing was a beast.


Q:

Will you please adopt me as your son and take me out to ice cream?

But seriously big fan I've been watching all your shows ever since I was a kid!

A:

Have you ever been to CERN? I'm going there on a school trip in March and would love to know more about it.


Q:

LOL!

A:

No, it's on my list. I've been to JINR, the Russian answer to CERN.


Q:

You're friends with joel zimmerman. Whats your favorite car of his that he either previously or currently owns?

A:

Can a highly socially awkward and shy person become a (sports) journalist? Do you have colleagues who are? Tell us about them.


Q:

The Nyanborgini

A:

Yes, anyone can become a journalist. Social awkwardness and shyness are not boundaries, although most of the jobs do require attending press conferences. You just have to take a deep breath, pluck up some courage and ask.

One of the best shy journos I know is a numbers dork, so she does a lot of freedom of information requests and data journalism, ploughing through the stats to find the story. She's amazing at it, so her skills are really in demand. No awkward social bits required.


Q:

Who inspired you to get to where you are now?

A:

What chemical cocktail (if any) would Dr. Jekyll have to drink to turn into Mr. Hyde in real life?


Q:

My dad. He was very creative and loved helping me with what ever crazy ideas I had. He still does.

A:

Russell Crowe's salty accented tears.


Q:

Hi Tory!!!! Im a huge, huge, HUGE fan! You're one of my all time favorite tv heros, I would really like to know when you Kari and Grant will be returning to television- if you are! I miss you guys so much and I was so sad to hear that there wont be a season 2 of White Rabbit Project (I loved the show!) Will you ever be doing a show like that again?

A:

Are you excited for the search for element 119 starting in December?


Q:

Thanks! Yeah it's a bummer about WRP. We have some shows in development so hopefully we'll be back soon. We miss you guys!

A:

Tentatively. I'm not sure it's going to be immediate, so I'll be more excited when the first ping happens. Personally I expect to see more progress in 2019 than the first RIKEN run.


Q:

Do you sometimes go back and rewatch episodes of mythbusters and laugh at your own antics?

A:

Since 1945? You must be very old.


Q:

No, but watching some of the stunts I did I do think, "What the $%&* was I thinking?"

A:

I was frozen in a vault along with my wife and infant son. One day I'll get to MIT.


Q:

What's your favourite fruit and why?

A:

Would you walk 500 more, just to be the man who discovered just one more?


Q:

Mango. It just is.

A:

Sure. I'd name it proclaimium.


Q:

What did you have the most fun building/fabricating for mythbusters?

A:

I belong in a co-ed chemistry Fraternity and one of my (dead) brothers is Glenn T Seaborg, can you tell me something interesting about element 106 Seaborgium?


Q:

One of my favorite builds was the rocket surfboard. Figuring out how to attach 200 rockets and have them go off in stages while staying on for the ride was the best!

A:

Seaborgium is pretty interesting because we've started actually looking at its chemistry. There's a neat video on it here.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the element is that its naming was in the middle of the 'transfermium wars' - arguments between the US and Russians as to who discovered which element, and what elements could be called. It was almost called rutherfordium - which is now element 104, which was almost called kurchatovium. The whole naming of the element is an amazing story.